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Continuing to Learn

A letter from Ryan and Alethia White serving in Germany

August 2016

Write to Ryan White
Write to Alethia White

Individuals: Give to E200500 or Ryan and Alethia White’s sending and support

Congregations: Give to D507565 for Ryan and Alethia White’s sending and support

Churches are asked to send donations through your congregation’s normal receiving site (this is usually your presbytery)

We have all come to the right place.
We all sit in God’s classroom.
—Hafiz, Persian poet

Dear friends,

We hope you are enjoying summer and your respective tasks and plans. We are thankful for a warm and sunny summer here in Berlin and the opportunities we have to sit in God’s classroom as we continue to learn about the ever-changing refugee community here in the city. Although the initial rush of people that made the news last fall has somewhat subsided, there are big questions being debated across Europe, and Germany is often at the center of these conversations. We continue to visit the refugee camps here, write letters in support of those at church seeking asylum, and work to help build the church here into a sustainable and supportive community.

We have been asked a number of times about our routine here, so will use this letter to give a portrait of what our life consists of currently. Our schedule here is ever changing. Every few months something is added and something ends, so we find ourselves challenged to adapt often, to rearrange routines we had become comfortable with, and to continually tweak the ever-fragile balance of work and ministry demands, family demands, and personal wishes. This is a challenge perhaps you face as well.

Currently we spend portions of the week in a literal classroom as we each meet with our German tutor on Tuesday mornings; Ryan meets with a Farsi tutor on Mondays or Tuesdays, and Alethia (along with Laila) meets with a German group for moms and babies/toddlers on Wednesdays. We feel we are making real progress, especially in German, as we interact with German-speaking friends, participate in meetings in German, help with Ariella’s kinderladen (day care) group, and interact with those from the church in German as they are also learning the language.

Ryan is holding a Bible study group at church that meets before the service on Sunday afternoons and also has a new members’ group that meets on Thursday afternoons. Sunday has become quite a full day for him as he leads the Bible study and then does the church service. He has help from a man acting as his translator (Ryan preaches in English) and from another man who regularly leads the worship service. He has been with the church for some years and his family has become friends of ours, with a daughter about Ariella’s age. It’s amazing to watch the two girls play and chat together in German, the language they now have in common.

The Bible Study group is slowly working through the Gospel of Mark and has had interesting conversations about the demonic, why the demons know who Jesus is and people do not, and the relationship between government and religion. Recently Ryan led the group in the practice of centering prayer, which was new for most of the people. Comments from people expressed how it was refreshing and peaceful. Some had visions or memories from the past that came to mind in the stillness. Our prayer is that this practice of being still and recognizing God’s presence with us can be a source of spiritual nourishment, particularly when life for migrants is filled with chaotic living arrangements with limited privacy while waiting for progress in their situation.

The new members class is a 12-week course at the conclusion of which participants are able to be baptized and join the church community. There are always interesting conversations and questions asked as we discuss issues of who God is from a Christian perspective and how we are called to live as followers of Jesus.

Since sunlight and warm weather are here, we have been to Wannsee (a lake region south of Berlin) with a group from the church and also to the Botanical Gardens for a picnic. We are also exploring the possibility of forming a closer partnership with the German church whose building we use. Hopefully this could lead to more joint events and holding worship services together. The German church leadership is quite interested in such a partnership, so the challenge becomes how to successfully move in that direction. The question of integration in general is one that is regularly on the minds of many here in Berlin and the rest of the country.

As for our family, we try to keep Friday as a family day. Ariella doesn’t go to kinderladen and we try to avoid meetings and other work to have some outing together. This day is refreshing to us all and we are thankful we are able to spend this time together.

Please keep our family and the families from church in prayer:

• Many here are separated from their families and hoping to be reunited soon. Many of the men are waiting for acceptance in Germany before they can bring their families.
• For a successful partnership and relationships to form between the German and Iranian congregations.
• For friendship and faith to be resilient and hopeful in the face of fear and nationalism.
• Ariella has been speaking more and more German, but is still having some issues integrating into her kinderladen group–please pray that she would build positive friendships.
• For us as we seek to continually balance our family, our ministry, and our personal needs.

Whatever your plans and routines this summer, we hope and pray that you will also take time to find yourself in God’s classroom.

In Peace,

Ryan, Alethia, Ariella, and Laila

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